The Breakfast Club was a seminal film for many teens in the mid-eighties, helping to define and challenge archetypes that still resonate in American high school culture today: The Nerd, The Princess, The Jock, The Basket Case and The Criminal.
But while things are looking up at the end of the movie, what happens to the protagonists after high school? How do these stereotypes bear out over the course of a lifetime, and where does that leave the characters as they approach retirement age?
Read on to find out how The Breakfast Club is saving for retirement.
John Bender – played by Judd Nelson
After graduating high school, Bender skipped college and got a job at the local factory in town. He works there today, having survived multiple rounds of layoffs.
Ten years ago the company cut their pension program, which means Bender won’t receive as much as he initially thought. Unfortunately, he failed to start saving for retirement on his own when the pension cuts were announced.
Now, he’s 50 and scrambling to catch up. He still wants to retire at 60, but is currently far short of his goal.
The lesson: Bender’s situation is common. As companies began cutting pensions in the 90s and 2000s, many employees didn’t take the time to start their own retirement accounts.
While it may be too late for Bender to save enough to retire at 60, he should still try to save as much as possible. Delaying Social Security benefits until age 70 will also give him an extra boost, about 8% annually for each year he doesn’t take his eligible payments.
Bender can also consult a financial planner who specializes in people who are behind on retirement. They can give him a better idea on how much longer he needs to work before he can retire.
Allison Reynolds – played by Ally Sheedy
Allison attended art college, and after graduation she embraced the life of a starving artist. She worked part-time at a health foods store and painted on the side, never earning enough to stash away a nest egg for her golden years.
Her personal retirement strategy is simple – keep working until she can’t and hope Social Security comes through.
The lesson: Working until you’re physically incapable is a bleak way to approach retirement, but plenty of Americans choose that option. In a 2016 study, about half of retirees said they left their jobs before they were ready to do so, because of physical problems or company downsizing.
Solely relying on Social Security is also a bad idea. This year, the average monthly benefit was $1,404, which can barely pay for the cost of rent, utilities, groceries and medical expenses not covered by Medicare. Most people need to save money in their own IRA or 401k to avoid retiring in poverty.
Allison’s situation is dire, but she can still consult a financial planner. They can help her come up a budget and a couple other strategies so her later years are still enjoyable, even if she’s still working.
Claire Standish – played by Molly Ringwald
The quintessential rich girl character, Claire was lucky enough to inherit a trust fund from her parents at age 25. She’s worked most of her adult life, only relying on the trust fund for half of her living expenses and investing the rest.
Claire still uses the same financial planner her parents did, and he’s chosen to put her money in a solid mix of index funds. She plans to stop working in the next year or two and focus on her volunteer efforts.
The lesson: Claire is extremely privileged, but she’s also been responsible with her finances. While other trust fund babies bought Porsches and $1 million homes, Claire lived in a two-bedroom bungalow and drove a Subaru. Her simple tastes haved allowed her to follow her passions and still retire early.
That might not seem very relatable for someone struggling to support a family and still save for retirement, but the lesson is about managing windfalls. Whether you’ve been gifted a six figure trust fund or a $500 tax refund, managing it responsibly will put you one step closer to retirement.
Claire has an advisor who focuses on high net worth individuals. If you have a trust fund or inheritance, one of these advisors can show you how to manage your windfall without running out.
Brian Johnson – played by Anthony Michael Hall
Brian’s straight-A work ethic carried him through college, where he majored in Software Engineering and graduated summa cum laude. After a few years working at Microsoft, he started his own tech company and sold it last year. The profits from the sale were enough for him to retire at age 50.
Now, Brian is enjoying retirement and contemplating his next step – mentoring up-and-coming entrepreneurs in a volunteer capacity.
The lesson: When you talk to people who were able to retire early, they tend to be go-getters. These aren’t the type to spend their 20s partying and living the good life – they hit the ground running as soon as they graduate college and don’t look back.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your youth, but retiring early is a privilege that requires sacrifice. How much you’re willing to give up is an entirely personal choice.
Brian can still benefit from a financial planner who works with individuals who are high net-worth and have already retired. He needs a planner to manage his investments so his money doesn’t run out.
Andrew Clark – played by Emilio Estevez
After attending college on a wrestling scholarship, Andrew returned to Shermer High School to coach wrestling and teach history. He’s married with two kids and has lived a regular life since his days in detention.
Andrew’s salary never got above $60,000, but he was responsible with money from the get-go, saving 10% for retirement each year. Combined with his teacher’s pension and Social Security benefits, Andrew plans to retire at 65 with a hearty nest egg.
The lesson: Saving early and consistently paid off for Andrew, even though he never outearned his peers. He learned in his 20s what many people fail to learn their whole lives: putting away just 10-15% every year is enough to build a healthy reserve.
Andrew can find a fee-only planner who will meet with him once a year and ensure he’s taking the proper required minimum withdrawals.
Sometimes, it’s hard to not let your personality affect your finances, but with the right financial advisor, you can find impartial advice that will direct you to the retirement you envision.
Thank you for reading all the way!
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